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Conspiracy Theory: Carl’s Jr. and Warner Bros. Are Pretending to Fight Over ‘Ready Player One’

It’s time to go through the looking glass of a viral marketing ploy

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Ready Player One photo via Warner Brothers; Carl’s Jr. photo via Facebook.

With the premiere of sci-fi extravaganza Ready Player One looming at the end the week, former Slutburger-manufacturer Carl’s Jr. took to Twitter yesterday to announce that it’s temporarily renaming its sliders “Spielburgers” as an homage to visionary filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Warner Bros., the company that’s releasing Ready Player One, quickly shared the link to the Carl’s Jr. mock-ad with a note that the studio admired the gesture, but did not approve the move:

Carl’s Jr. continued to share Spielberg-themed homages on Twitter yesterday, and they sent a representative to the film’s premiere yesterday with some burgers, hoping to track down Spielberg to “seal the deal.”

It’s pretty cute to see a major movie studio wagging its virtual finger a major fast-food chain on social media in a Look mom, the brands are talking to each other!sort of way. It’s less, cute, however, when you start to consider that maybe — just maybe — this whole thing is one big, dumb viral ploy engineered to get you to both see Ready Player One and stop at Carl’s Jr. after the movie this weekend.

Prepare to enter the Eater Conspiracy Zone.

First of all, Carl’s Jr. wouldn’t have paid someone to put together those spiffy homages to Ready Player One in the first place if the chain wasn’t already in cahoots with the studio, because the burger maker wouldn’t want to get sued by a Hollywood giant. And if Warner Bros. actually had a problem with this ad, the film company wouldn’t simply make a crack about it on Twitter — the studio would sick its lawyers on the social media team and get them to delete it.

But the most damning evidence that this is, indeed, just a big social media hoax, is found in this early promotional image of Ready Player One.

Check out what’s on the ground next to the Oculus Rift teen’s Chuck Taylors. Is that... why yes, it appears to be an empty Carl’s Jr. wrapper. Let’s zoom in, shall we?

Original image: Ready Player One/Warner Brothers

As IO9 noted way back in July of last year, the Carl’s Jr. packaging was just one of many hidden Eater eggs in this teaser photo. USA Today also notes that the film company and the burger purveyor actually did set up a licensing agreement tied to the release of the film, further proving that this whole thing is just a bit of social media nonsense.

Please feel free to exit the Eater Conspiracy Zone, and keep your eyes and mind open to the truth — it’s out there, somewhere.

UPDATE, 3/29/18: Spielberg responded to the stunt on his production company’s Twitter account by praising the burgers but also noting that the deal is a no-go. “Cease and desist,” he says:

Carl’s Jr.’s account responded by plugging Ready Player One on Twitter:

And Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, suggested that he take Spielberg’s place on the Carl’s Jr. menu:

Ready Player One [Warner Bros.]
Carl’s Jr. [Twitter]